17β-estradiol can rapidly modulate neuron function via membrane estrogen receptors (ERs) in a sex-specific manner. For example, female rat hippocampal neurons express palmitoylated versions of ERα and ERβ that associate with the plasma membrane. These membrane-associated ERs are organized by caveolin proteins into functional signaling microdomains with metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs). ER/mGluR signaling mediates several sex-specific estradiol actions on hippocampal neuron function. An important unanswered question regards the mechanism by which sex-specific membrane-associated ER signaling is generated, especially since it has been previously demonstrated that mGluR action is not sex-specific. One possibility is that the genes necessary for the ER membrane complex are differentially expressed between males and females, including genes that encode ERα and β, caveolin 1 and 3, and/or the palmitoylacyltransferases DHHC-7 and -21. Thus we used qPCR to test the hypothesis that these genes show sex differences in expression in neonatal and adult rat hippocampus. As an additional control we tested the expression of the 20 other DHHC palmitoylacyltransferases with no known connections to ER. In neonatal hippocampus, no sex differences were detected in gene expression. In adult hippocampus, the genes that encode caveolin 1 and DHHC-7 showed decreased expression in females compared to males. Thus, select genes differ by sex at specific developmental stages, arguing for a more nuanced model than simple widespread perinatal emergence of sex differences in all genes enabling sex-specific estradiol action. These findings enable the generation of new hypotheses regarding the mechanisms by which sex differences in membrane-associated ER signaling are programmed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. Valerie Hedges for assistance with extracting RNA from adult hippocampus and Dr. Scott Belcher for statistical consultation. Funding: This work was supported by DA035008 (P.G.M), DA041808 (P.G.M.), NIH F32 DA030828 (J.M.), and R01 MH109471 (J.M.).
- Estrogen receptor
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural